These two monsters have nothing to do with each other except that (a) they’re the last two monsters from Volo’s Guide to Monsters that I planned to look at and hadn’t yet, and (b) neither one is all that interesting. Although, to my surprise, the one I thought would be more interesting turned out not to be interesting at all, while the one I thought would be less interesting turned out to be a little more so.
The trapper is a great deal like the cloaker, in that it hunts by wrapping itself around its victims’ heads so that they can’t see or breathe, but it lacks the cloaker’s mobility. In its hunting strategy, it’s more like a roper, slow but stealthy, using False Appearance to hide itself until prey comes within reach.
It has both darkvision and blindsight, making it most at home in total darkness—in other words, underground. The Spider Climb trait allows it to lurk on ceilings and walls as well as floors, whatever is most likely to put it within easy reach of a meal (if it’s on a ceiling, it can wait for a creature to pass below, then drop before trying to smother it). On the ground or against a wall, it’s stuck preying on creatures that walk right past it, but on the ceiling, it can hang out 30 to 35 feet up and easily detect even hidden creatures that pass directly beneath it, thanks to its blindsight. False Appearance ensures that it won’t be spotted at these distances, even by creatures with darkvision.
Even if it didn’t have an Intelligence of only 2, the trapper literally has only one method of attack: the Smother action. When it takes this action against another creature, that creature must make a Dexterity saving throw or be grappled, restrained, blinded and “at risk of suffocating.” What does that last bit mean? It means, per “Suffocating” in chapter 8 of the Player’s Handbook, that a creature that’s out of breath can survive for a number of rounds equal to its Constitution modifier (minimum 1), at which point it passes out and has to start making death saves. Does a player character enveloped by a trapper get to hold its breath, allowing it to remain conscious for minutes rather than seconds? Not, I’d say, if it’s surprised, which the target of a trapper nearly always will be. (Just as with the cloaker’s Bite attack, the trapper’s Smother action becomes a total non-threat if the target gets the chance to take a breath.)
The trapper is looking for a meal, and it’s not equipped to drag that meal away to enjoy it someplace else, so it’s going to keep its target enveloped until they’re not merely unconscious but dead. However, it doesn’t want that meal badly enough to risk its own life over it, so it spits out its meal and slithers away if it’s moderately wounded (59 hp or fewer). As slow as it is, its best escape plan is to Dash straight up a wall and along the ceiling.
It’s probably clear by now that the name “trapper” is three letters too long. This beastie is an obstacle, not an enemy. Its function is to rob PCs of hit points that they’ll wish they still had later on.
The girallon is a four-armed ape of below-ape-average intelligence. Its physical ability scores are all impressively high, allowing it to fight either as a brute (melee slugfest) or as a shock attacker (swift melee strike, retreat, strike again). Its Multiattack gives it five attack rolls per turn. Why should it do anything but charge and maul?
That’s what I thought at first, but upon closer inspection, there are ways to juice girallons’ effectiveness a little. Consider the following:
- Their speed is 40 feet, whether it’s walking or climbing. The climbing speed means girallons are at home in 3-D environments—forests, rocky cliffs, ruins and the like. The number means girallons are faster than most PCs in a straight chase.
- The Aggressive feature allows girallons, like orcs, to effectively Dash toward their opponents as a bonus action, meaning they can initiate combat from a distance of up to twice their movement—potentially, beyond the sensory range of an opponent with darkvision.
- Girallons’ darkvision is also capped at 60 feet, but they have Keen Smell, and in fifth-edition Dungeons & Dragons, the sense of smell isn’t limited by distance. (Some real-world creatures, such as bears and elephants, can distinguish smells from miles away.) In pitch darkness, which is equivalent to dim light under darkvision, most creatures must roll with disadvantage to see a hidden foe, but thanks to Keen Smell, girallons roll with advantage to detect other creatures. In other words, they can lurk at a distance of 65 to 80 feet from likely prey, completely invisible to them and inaudible as well (the maximum audible distance of a creature trying to be quiet, per the Dungeon Master’s Screen Reincarnated, is only 60 feet), sniff them out, then come barreling in to attack with surprise.
Girallons have a predator’s normal self-preservation instinct, but the Aggressive trait suggests that they may stay in the fight even if their intended prey fights back. However, a moderate wound (18 damage or more from a single attacker) seems like a good decision point at which a girallon might opt to behave more like a shock attacker than a brute, backing off temporarily to see what its prey does, then attacking again if they show any sign of weakness (that an animal might recognize). Lacking the Intelligence to Disengage, retreating girallons Dash away, easily outrunning most foes who might try to pursue.
If a girallon is seriously wounded (reduced to 23 hp or fewer), it retreats for real and doesn’t come back.